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Senators' playoff push continues vs. Penguins

by Jon Lane

SENATORS (24-21-10) at PENGUINS (38-15-2)


Last 10: Ottawa 5-3-2; Pittsburgh 6-3-1

Season series: The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins play the second of three games. Craig Anderson stopped all 27 shots to lead the Senators to a 5-0 win on Dec. 23, a game that saw the Penguins lose forward Pascal Dupuis for the season to a knee injury.

Big story: The Penguins (78 points) have been the class of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, but have lost three of their past seven games.

The Senators' situation is more precarious following a 6-3 loss Saturday to the Toronto Maple Leafs that dropped them from the East's final wild-card berth. After sitting seven points out of a postseason spot in early December, Ottawa is two points behind the Detroit Red Wings, but must leapfrog the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

"The position we put ourselves in ... now every point is crucial and every game that we play in, you have to definitely try hard to get something out of it," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told reporters Sunday.

Team Scope:

Senators: It was downhill for Ottawa in Toronto after taking a 2-0 lead 6:46 into the second period. Defenseman Erik Karlsson hit the post near the 11-minute mark that would have extended the Senators' advantage. The Maple Leafs scored the next three and the final three goals for the victory.

''I felt we played hard,'' Senators forward Chris Neil said. ''We gave up some chances in the second, but I thought we settled it down there in the third and got back after them. I don't think it's a 6-3 hockey game, that's for sure. It was pretty close back and forth.''

Penguins: Pittsburgh's first appearance in Arizona in 3 1/2 years ended in a 3-1 defeat to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Penguins' first regulation loss against a Pacific Division opponent (8-1-1). An offense that leads the East in scoring (176 goals) managed just 24 shots.

"[Saturday] was a tough-fought game. There wasn't a lot out there,'' Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. ''That's the kind of games we expect. We have to be able to play a patient game, not be taking chances with the way we play or the way we play with the puck.''

Who's hot: Senators center Jason Spezza has two goals and seven points in his past five games. Neil's two goals against the Maple Leafs was his fourth-career multi-goal game … Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz has three goals and five assists in his past five games. Center Evgeni Malkin has scored in consecutive games and is 3-1-4 in his past five. Malkin's goal Saturday was his 614th career point, putting him in sole possession of fifth place on the Penguins' all-time list.

Injury report: Senators defenseman Chris Phillips (lower body) has missed the past three games. Right wing Mark Stone (arm) is on injured reserve … Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta said he was OK on Saturday after sustaining a swollen right cheek when a puck struck him in the jaw. Defenseman Kris Letang (illness) has missed the past two games. Out since Nov. 22, forward Beau Bennett (broken wrist/hand) is expected to return after the Olympic break. Forwards Chris Conner (hand) and Joe Vitale (sprained right wrist), and goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot, hip) are on IR.


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